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Atlanta Exhibitors Champion Color, Pattern

Wielding Better Goods vs. Tough Economy

With bright, bold colors and artsy graphic patterns, exhibitors at this edition of the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market are showcasing an upbeat line of products, as if in direct opposition to the dismal economic forecast.

Although still cautious — like most of the home textiles industry — suppliers here are committed to putting on a good show, while still bracing for fewer buyers with thinner budgets visiting the showrooms.

"Truthfully, whether it's a big buy or a small buy, people want something new and fresh — and they especially want quality at this time," noted Aaron Stewart, creative director of Sferra, adding that retailers are reading their shoppers closely. "Consumers are spending less money, but as a result, they want the perfect product."

Sferra will be showing new beds with medium weight matelasse bedding in up to eight different colors. A white and ivory jacquard damask with big oversized designs and new selections that juxtapose big graphic prints, like bold stripes with florals, will also be part of the mix.

"We haven't cut back on our introductions at all," said Pamela Kline, ceo of Traditions by Pamela Kline. She has added two new beach-themed collections, Avaline and Sandpiper, featuring quilts and fabrics of the company's designs as well as more romantic collections — Tabrize and Enchantment — that offer embroidery on sateen fabrics.

The company has also expanded its line for children, adding a new collection for boys called Tristan. "The feel is very Adirondack Mountains, and we've enlarged the collection with new towels, sheets and duvets. At times like these, people want to take the time to make their home beautiful and to create traditions," Kline said.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed for good traffic," said Sam Samani, evp for Austin Horn, a brand of Pacific Coast Home Furnishings. "If High Point is any indication, it will be slow. But we've always done well in Atlanta, and it's a new year and hopefully people will be ready for a new beginning."

The company is adding a number of new groupings to its mix. "We're doing our version of yellow as one of the season's trends," noted Samani. Other new colorways in the line include grey, chocolate and a burgundy. According to Samani, three of the new offerings are opulent looks that the brand is known for, with one more modern look, as well as a silk-themed retro style. The brand is showing coverlets in its collections as a layering piece, to capitalize on the cleaner looks now on trend for beds.

"It's anybody's guess how the traffic will be; but if people have to go anywhere they have to go to Atlanta; it's my favorite market," noted Patricia Spratt, principal, Patricia Spratt for the Home. "Unlike some markets, people who come to Atlanta are serious. They have their notes in order."

Spratt said pergola or lattice-like patterns are at the heart of her new tabletop and accessory collection, both of which coordinate with new color schemes throughout the line. One theme includes an oversized bamboo print; there is also a chain link pattern that is integrated into different colors and fabrics.

Also continuing to grow at Spratt is the Easy Living line of indoor/outdoor fabrics; she said design in the category as a whole seems to be getting increasingly more sophisticated. Blue features prominently in the Spratt interpretations.

Though certainly impacted, the high-end of the home textiles market remains viable, and one company has decided to act on that. Dwell Studio has upped the ante in its business despite the dire economic predictions. "We've chosen not to stay in the middle and have decided to take it up a step," said Jennifer Chusad, national sales manager.

Dwell has shifted its production from China to Portugal, to appeal to a higher-end market. In addition, it has tapped The Simblist Group as a new rep and will have a permanent place in its Atlanta showroom. Chusad anticipates the move will introduce Dwell to new buyers from specialty linen and home stores, to help branch out the brand name beyond its traditional gift store market.

Like many exhibitors, Dwell will be showing lots of color and prints, including bright combinations like cobalt and blue. According to Chusad, this is also designed to appeal to a perhaps less traditional customer. "We're going to offer beautiful high-end products, but at prices that will attract a younger customer," she said.

For some companies, interior designers represent an opportunity and a newer customer base. Eastern Accents is a resource that has turned to its design business to help stem the economic tide. "We're very designer friendly," said Kristin Kopp, national sales manager. "We've been affected by the economy but not as much as other companies, and the designer business has helped us weather the storm"

Eastern Accents is showing 12 new beds with upholstered headboards as well as a new line of drapery in wood or metal finishes. It has also expanded its children's program with collections of coverlets, duvets, curtains and hand-painted pillows. The color stories for both boys and girls can be mixed and matched and the hand painted pillows include images for every taste: musical instruments, ballet and nautical themes.

Home Source International is also banking on its color know-how to give it an edge in a tough market. "We're a color authority and continue to be strong in that area; it makes us very competitive," said vp Scott Sorgeloos. Among debut products is a Microcotton towel that will be available in 25 new colors. The company will also showcase a 100% bamboo collection, to which it has added a 10th color.

Like many exhibitors, Sorgeloos expects a thinner crowd. "I think at this show, we'll see a lot more regional traffic," he noted. "You won't get too many visitors from the West. And those that do come will probably shorten their stay, maybe to one day." Like most Atlanta exhibitors, he said his team is braced for whatever challenges the traffic brings them, and are prepared to still wow visitors with new, bright collections.

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